Innovation in enterprise AI is increasingly focused on how to use the growing availability of data to drive automation into the customer experience. This is why personalization has risen to such a prominent role in the past decade.
From Amazon and Netflix-styled recommendation engines to bot-led self-service that quickly understands the context and history of your inquiries, a baseline of personalization is necessary and expected in customer engagement today. There is a lot of value in automating engagement based on personalized data, which can work well for both companies and customers in areas such as self-service and sales.
Automating customer engagements drives both decreased effort and increased scalability, which are two highly valued elements of customer experience. However, if business leaders think about using data-driven personalization just along these lines, they risk missing the real opportunity in utilizing AI to build genuinely exceptional customer engagements.
Too many companies today are looking at AI and automation technologies as just ways to optimize for efficiency in customer engagement. The brands with the best customer experience understand that they should use AI to empower the workforce and bots with the personalized context needed to deliver superior customer engagements with speed, convenience, and proactive reach.
The Rise of Radical Customer Personalization
The data-driven economy has unlocked information about customers that was unimaginable even a decade ago. Companies know more about their customers than ever before, allowing them to tailor offerings and services that are much more relevant and convenient.
We can target ads to customers in precise ways, but the downside is the marketing bubble that this can create. Similarly, companies have honed data-driven customer engagement to deliver what they believe the consumer wants. Is the efficiency of this automated personalization a trade-off for actually listening to the customer? Digital marketing offers an elucidating example of both the positive and negative sides of this extreme personalization.
Customer expectations are higher than ever, as are the stakes of delivering on them. A recent PwC study found that even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences and 17% after just one bad experience.
Customers have never had it better. Expectations of immediate shipping or tailored content have become the norm, while consumers expect the context of their specific situation to be understood while resolving any issue, regardless of channel. These expectations create an increasingly large gap between streamlined, automated customer service and personalized high-quality customer experience.
Decreased effort and increased scalability have driven customer engagement initiatives over the past decade. Efficiency and automation have now become the expectation for customers. But that automation arms race to efficiency can’t be a singular focus for companies, especially since they are increasingly competing on customer experience. The best brands understand that the future of quality customer experience will need to embrace more robust customer engagement.
Building the New Customer Relationship
The introduction of automation into the customer experience is typically done to lead the customer into the most efficient path to resolution, whether for sales, service, or marketing. But it is crucial not to optimize away the most valuable customer touchpoints. Authentic customer relationships are not built through these merely transactional interactions.
So while automation and self-service are fantastic for convenience, we have to ask ourselves if companies are really introducing personalization into these interactions in the right way and for the right things? Are they empowering customers in ways that give them more choice and control, or are they just reducing efforts for the company?
In rethinking the customer relationship, companies need to recognize that part of building quality engagement is as much about empowering their employees as it is their customers. Any customer touchpoint can benefit from personalization, whether it is a self or assisted service engagement. Companies should focus automation efforts on supporting bots and agents with as much context as possible. This changes the drive toward automation into something that actually elevates the customer experience, not just making it more efficient.
This is critical in addressing what at Verint we refer to as the “Engagement Capacity Gap.” When it comes to creating enduring customer relationships, there’s a gap between what organizations need to do and the resources they have available to do it – the chasm between the growing number of customer interactions, the increased expectations that these interactions bring, and the resources companies have to fulfill these expectations. As a recent McKinsey report noted, businesses understand that customer engagement is an increasingly crucial differentiator and are focusing on creating differentiated experiences that are authentic, relevant, frictionless, and connected. Furthermore, these experiences must also be capable of operating at scale.
Closing the Engagement Capacity Gap requires an agile system of automation and human flexibility, a hybrid workforce of humans and bots. Unified data and evolving context are critical to both and to serving customers effectively, efficiently, and personally. When we treat customer data as the foundation of customer engagement, then we can build a relationship on top of it. But we cannot substitute data for an actual relationship.
This is about changing the mindset around automation as well. We know that customers who have positive experiences remain customers for at least five years longer than those that had negative experiences, and companies need to invest in those experiences. Organizations need to think of customer engagement in terms of resolutions and the relationship they are building for lifetime value.
The automated personalization race has created a customer experience based on a single transactional value. In contrast, if we focus on building genuine and valuable relationships between brands and customers, we can move into an LTV mode of thinking. Importantly, this means personalization can never be static but needs to be inherently constantly evolving with the customer, regardless of the engagement channel.
If business is just transactional, then automation purely for scale and its convenience offers an incredible value. But suppose we want to consider business as a relationship that evolves to meet the needs of where our customers are and where they are going. In that case, we need to demand a different kind of automation that is more human, more personalized, and seeks to truly understand our customers rather than simply telling them who they are.
Learn more about how Verint’s comprehensive Digital First Engagement solutions can empower your customer relationships at verint.com.
Heather Richards is the vice president of GTM Strategy at Verint, where she is responsible for driving a global strategy for Verint’s Digital First Engagement portfolio.